In his introductory speech to the 2016 budget, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said that the Coalition government consulted youths from across the country. He also used the opportunity to take a jab at the PPP Opposition about their refusal to participate in these budget consultations.
The minister’s statement seems to suggest that young people currently enjoy inclusivity. Perhaps this is true for some. But for others, particularly the independent thinkers, there is only an increasing feeling of frustration.
Last May, politics was trending among the young. Everyone wanted to overthrow the PPP government but not everyone understood why this was so important. Those people who bought into the “good” and “evil” labelling believed that changing government would cause flawed systems which were decades old to disappear.
I’ve heard many people – taxi and minibus drivers, housewives, businessmen, teachers, other professionals and all their children – mutter that we’ve replaced one set of scamps with another set of scamps. My answer is always the same: it’s not about the people, it’s about the flawed political system and its foundational ideas.
I began hearing the whispers of disappointment during the Coalition’s 2015 campaign. Many of the independent thinkers were disappointed by the lack of organization and by the regimental manner of getting things done. One young man told me, it was as if thinking outside the box and having your own ideas was a cardinal sin.
I’ve heard a few former Coalition youths say that “there’s no thinking for yourself when you’re inside the camp”. I pointed out to them that I’ve heard similar sentiments from PPP youths as well. As is, most politicians are only interested in youths in so far as they can be manipulated to serve as political tools which can be used to gain and maintain power.
If we look at what is currently happening in Georgetown alone then I believe it gives us a true picture of what has been happening and what will continue to increasingly happen. There are youths who are contesting Local Government Elections either as part of independent groups or as individual candidates in the First-past-the-post component. What does this suggest and where will it lead?
More than one of them have told me that they believe leadership at the level of public office is all about service. And several went on to explain that many of our big party players seem to have forgotten that they are servants of the people and have, instead, become more interested in the political power race. There are those politicians who feel that now is their time to reign and pillage and rape the treasury.
Last March I attended a campaign meeting at Hadfield Street. President David Granger was in that room and I stood and spoke about online bullying of young PPP supporters. I said that I do not care if we do not agree with their beliefs or if we have somehow perceived ourselves to have been wronged by them, this does not give us the right to attack anyone. These days the bullying has leaked into the streets of Georgetown. An eye for an eye will blind the entire nation.
When the Coalition won the elections, they did not take an oath to serve only their supporters but they swore to serve every Guyanese regardless of their beliefs. And when the PPP lost the elections, they only lost the right to be the top dog in government. The PPP still sits on the other side of the house, they can still affect policies which govern our lives and they have a duty to represent not just their supporters but their nation. This is the duty of every politician.
The growing group of young independent thinkers has observed all these things, they discuss them in their circles and they are beginning to believe that parliament and big party politics, as they operate in the current flawed political system, are more divisive than cohesive.
It is within this context that young people are beginning to offer themselves to serve their communities and to pave the way to public office at a local level for their peers. And they are not standing to say that they believe they should lead because they are young. I’ve heard them say that they believe in service, that they believe it is their duty to their nation and that it is time for them to use the skills they have acquired to build our country.
And these young people are the children of the generations who sit in parliament. I see no reason for parents to be afraid of what they have created.